Schwarzenegger vows to bring gold back to California

October 24, 2003

AFP Arnold Schwarzenegger is sworn in as governor by state Chief Justice Ronald George (R) while his wife Maria Shriver holds the bible. Photo: AFP/Robyn Beck
SACRAMENTO, California — Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in as governor of California on Monday, vowing to immediately begin the battle of returning the shine to the battered golden state.

In a businesslike ceremony lasting less than 45 minutes, the immigrant actor and former bodybuilder said he was "humbled" to become the 38th leader of the most populous but financially troubled US state.

Before an audience of more than 7,500 dignitaries and 600 journalists from around the world gathered in the state capital, Sacramento, Schwarzenegger accepted the biggest challenge of his life with a promise to change the way California is governed.

"I'm humble and honoured and moved beyond words to be your governor," he said after taking the oath of office at a low-key ceremony, reflecting the state's record budget deficit and flagging economy.

"I realize that I was elected with faith and hope," he told the cheering crowd, as he became the second movie star after Ronald Reagan to become California's governor.

"Everybody knew they were taking a chance on a man with no governmental experience," the moderate Republican said outside the state capitol building.

Saying he had an "immigrant's optimism," the Austrian-born Schwarzenegger warned the state's 35 million people that tough times lie ahead.

"What we face may seem insurmountable," the 56-year-old former Mr Universe said in a speech laden with weight-lifting metaphors.

"But I have learned something from all these years of training and competing. When I thought I couldn't have lifted another ounce of weight, I learned that we are always stronger than we know and California is like that too.

"There is a massive weight that we must lift off our state.

Alone I cannot lift it but together we can," the "Terminator" star told the audience who repeatedly interrupted his speech with cheers.

Schwarzenegger repeated the oath of office -- in which he pledged to uphold the US and California constitutions -- to state Chief Justice Ronald George as his beaming Democratic Kennedy-clan wife Maria Shriver and four children looked on.

Behind him stood a battery of members of America's most celebrated political family and a full array of surviving previous California governors, with the exception of Alzheimer-stricken Reagan.

Schwarzenegger, who was elected governor in a special election on October 7 that ousted the Democratic incumbent Gray Davis, promised to begin battling the state's problems immediately. He will only serve the remaining thee years of Davis' four year term.

His first task will be to repeal Davis' unpopular tripling of the state's car tax, a move aimed at alleviating the budget deficit that has been estimated at up to 38 billion dollars.

"I will not forget my oath and I will not forget you," he said in a conciliatory speech quoting his role models -- slain president John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, and Republican Reagan.

Schwarzenegger played on his role as an political outsider and called for Californians to cast aside partisan enmity generated by the recall election as he pledged to sweep clean the state's lumbering bureaucracy and to revive its economy.

"With the eyes of the world upon us we did the dramatic," he said of his landslide election victory that grabbed headlines around the world. "Now we must put the rancour of the past behind us and do the extraordinary."

In a move reflecting the new governor's desire for unity on all fronts, a rabbi and Catholic speech offered benedictions at the low-key inauguration attended by leaders from across the political spectrum.

After the ceremony, Schwarzenegger said he would call for a special session of the state legislature to discuss the fiscal crisis, to repeal a controversial law granting driver's licences to illegal immigrants to and reform the broke workers' compensation system.

He will also host a luncheon for legislators and officials and attend another thrown by the chamber of commerce of California's capital, featuring an array of Austrian dishes.

"This is going to be an honest revolution," said Schwarzenegger's new education secretary Richard Riordan on the eve of the ceremony.

"This state is really in bad shape. It's going to take real strong charismatic leadership," he said. –Sapa-AFP

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